Photos: Jerry Buttles and Ania Eaton
Last Friday, September 26th, Oakland's own LeQuivive Gallery and founder Michael Broberg hosted an epic show that covers a group of different disciplines around one very influential concept. Champagne Tigers, curated by Hunter De La Ghetto, is a tribute to the Wu-Tang Clan and all of the ways that they have influenced culture as we know it. And Oakland definitely showed up for this as the gallery was packed out. Tattooer Dana James (Eye of the Tiger Tattoo) brought in an amazing series of paintings done in a traditional Japanese back piece fashion that incorporated each member of the Wu with their own specific iconography as well as legendary traditional Japanese symbols and images.
John Felix Arnold III (whose solo exhibition "No Destination" opens this Friday at FFDG) created four conceptual sculpture pieces and one a full blown installation, ranging from a Bullet Proof Wallet (see Ghostface Killah's 3rd solo album) to the the Wu-Tang logo done in his signature found food assemblage panelling style, to a replica of the instruments in the actual Torture skit on "Enter the 36 Chambers".
Ken Davis, prolific sign painter and Bay Area artist, brought 8 masterfully painted and hand made signs that truly blew the crowd away, one an homage to the timeless track "C.R.E.A.M." that is still played at pretty much any party you will go to to this day. And Sean Gillespie (Old Crow Tattoo) absolutely killed it with nine beautifully rendered illustrative paintings of each of the original members. The crowd response was amazing and just in time for the Wu's Saturday night performance at the Warfield in SF. Talk about a Wu-Tang Weekend. Go see this show before it comes down if you couldn't make the opening, especially if the music of the Wu-Tang Clan has played any part in your life. These artists will continue to cook up some marvelous shit to keep your mouth watering. Show runs through October 18th. -The New Dirty Bastard
1525 Webster St. Btw 16th&17th
Dennis McNett opened WOLFBAT, a collection of prints and small works last Saturday at Fifty24SF, here in San Francisco. A personal favorite, McNett always produces gnarly images through immaculate prints, and this show certainly fit that bill. Complete with prints, masks, sculptures, and enamel silk screens, this show is a printmaker’s (and skateboarder’s) fantasy. I read an interview with McNett a few years ago where he talked about the energy of a print versus that of a drawing and said that the lines within his prints contain energy because they took energy to create them. This is readily apparent in WOLFBAT, which oozes the creative power by which it was made.
I got to and left the gallery early on Saturday, so I missed an evening which I’m sure was full of cigarette smoking, beer drinking and other shenanigans, but I know visitors probably enjoyed themselves. The work was even priced affordably, so hopefully a few people went home to start their own collections. If you missed the opening, don’t fret, just be sure to stop by and check it out. It’ll definitely be an energy boost at the very least.
Words & Photos: Rachel Ralph - rachel(at)fecalface.com
Super Awesome: Art and Giant Robot, the recent exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California is exactly why I moved to San Francisco. I (like thousands of others across the country) lived in middle America, completely separate from the worlds of art and expression happening on either coast. Also, like thousands of others, I turned to sources like Giant Robot (and of course Fecal Face and Juxtapoz) as my contemporary art history textbooks. Through their pages, Giant Robot gave me a direct connection to artists in Calfornia – artists working on skateboards, on toys, on zines, on sculptures; on work I could relate to and simply enjoy.
Yet, nothing kills the enjoyment of art quite like art graduate school (which provided me the ability to actually move to SF). Surrounded by alienating mediums like performance and heavy political implications, I wasn’t sure that I was actually supposed to take pleasure in art any more. However, this exhibition renewed my faith that I’m allowed to like art. And so are the other visitors to it, which is exactly what I experienced there. People were smiling, laughing at the comics, discussing the work with each other, and really genuinely enjoying it. And what’s not to like? There are unique murals by some of the most famous contemporary artists, contemporary toys and some straight out of childhood, and comics you could read for days.
This exhibition really speaks to art in California, and therefore art in the Bay Area. We’re not New York and we don’t have to be. Freeing ourselves from established systems and generational traditions allowed people on the west coast to adopt a new relation to art, one which allows for pleasure and fun. Giant Robot, through two decades of publication, embraces this ethos and spreads it across the world. Not only filled with quality images but indicating a duration that should be admired in the worlds of both art and publishing, the magazine and the exhibition are prime examples of an attitude in contemporary art. After all, it’s just for the fun of it.
Words & Photos: Rachel Ralph - rachel(at)fecalface.com
Kara Walker's "A Subtlety" was a large scale public project inside of Brooklyn's old Domino Sugar Factory. The show took place from May 10th through July 6th, and was presented by Creative Time. We asked artist Coby Kennedy to write about it.
It struck me all at once on the 3rd visit. "Ooooooo... I get it."
If I had not have borne witness to the evolving stages of Kara Walkers "A Subtlety", then I would not have "gotten it". "The Subtlety" being a polarizing installation consisting of the colossal sugar Sphinx Mammy figure surrounded by molasses and resin slave children all slowly decomposing in the cavernous remains of a molasses coated sugar factory. The ambitious months long exhibition, in the beginning, was seen by many as massive sculptural indulgence but soon revealed itself to be, among many other layers, a much more complex and unexpected exercise in viewer involved social practice.
When I arrived at the Domino Sugar Factory on that opening weekend I felt "The Fear". I rarely feel "The Fear" in New York, it usually rears its ugly head when I'm well south of the Mason Dixon Line; or on those unexpected occasions that I find myself in "America Proper" alone in a privileged suburban Abercrombie drenched mythical Stepford-wives-ian Wasp-ish purgatory of "Beckys"and "Chads".
The Fear starts as a foreboding sense of dread, a loss of agency, embarrassment and imminent danger, punctuated by an instinctual shock in the chest upon realizing that you're currently surrounded by an alien culture that consistently proves itself defensively hostile, subversively judgmental and aggressively ignorant. And on this weekend in Brooklyn, as one of the only Black viewers, surrounded by over-excited throngs of the white art viewing public cavorting and running amok around the face, ass and labia of a 30 foot tall gargantuan nude prostrated Black Mammy Sphinx made of white sugar, I found myself surrounded by White folks that just didn't get it... and the fear set in.
The depth of the piece and the sugar plantation slavery history it was referencing was in stark contrast to the perceived frolicking madness of the crowd. But then again isn't that mix of dire serious theme and darkly humorous, almost slapstick visual aesthetic, a consistent through line of Kara's work? Regardless, getting out of there felt like escaping a mob, or Auschwitz, or a Mississippi plantation in the 1800's. The overriding sense of racial them-against-us was palpable. Right then and there I laid it out to a friend, "...Any exhibit that can freak me out that hard has GOT to be a win!". But the question remained, what the hell really just happened?
The debate among a swath of the Black artist community of, "do the artist and curator of 'A Subtlety' have a responsibility to provide written or spoken context to an exhibition", is arguable. But if so where does the art cease and the didactic history lesson start? Why must intentionally polarizing art be prescribed? Doesn't that attempt at political correctness simply neuter the multifaceted potential of the work? Since when has a prerequisite of art been that it has to teach? I found it was that vagueness that made my experience with the exhibit so intense that I had to come back a second time. The critique of the piece and the way it was being engaged from a deluge of Black voices that ensued online and in person was so intense, at times seeming to come in the form of outright hatred for, not only the audience, but for the artist herself. It seemed to me that I now found myself surrounded by Black folks that just didn't get it.
And on the third visit, on the final weekend of the exhibit, it all viscerally clicked. The physicality of this sugar warehouse as tomb and slave ship alike. The past meets present connection of the porthole cut out of the wall framing perfectly the real housing projects across the east river that now holds the descendants of the Sugar Sphinx and her children. The decomposed state of the children themselves naturally melted over the course of the run of the show. The fact that Kara Walker and Creative Time planned to use the hash tagged online photos that the thousands of visitors have posted for an epilogue project of sorts goes directly to the idea that "A Subtlety" is just as much a critique of how the piece is engaged by the public as it is about the piece itself, the artist has said as much already. But what is so striking is the notion that ultimately it may not even be about "getting it" anyway. Increasingly as the show ran on whether intentional or not, those who engaged "A Subtlety" became in many ways the work itself. On that last day it seemed that the audience was just as enthralled by watching the crowd as there were watching the sugar melt.
Also on display at The Shooting Gallery alongside Kelly Tunstall and Ferris Plock is works from San Francisco based Meryl Pataky. Rachel Ralph wrote up a few words and took the photos below. Rachel can be reached: rachel(at)fecalface.com
Bringing a different kind of feminine sensibility to the project space is Meryl Pataky with her show, The Golden Hour. I must admit, I am personally enamored with this show and its creator. The work is powerful, its industrial materials are not easy to work with I’m sure, but it doesn’t feel forced whatsoever.
She combines neon tubing with cowhide and ink, speaking to what feels like an internal dichotomy. The Rorschach ink blots reveal psychological depth through the skin of the cow which literally glows from within and finally through the numerals on its surface. She also plays with the artificiality of her neon by placing up against walls of vegetation and minerals, emphasizing the true elemental nature of something that illuminates itself in a way that we don’t commonly associate with organic environments. In so doing, she speaks beyond the earth and instead reaches to the cosmos, the big bang, the creation of it all – possibly the golden hour.
Last month Lotte Arts, in collaboration with Tiny Splendor, opened a weeklong print show, Paper & Pressure. The show, held at FFDG, featured 16 California printmakers, including Kenneth Srivijittakar and Peter Baczek.
On Saturday and Sunday the gallery housed a print sale with work by over 50 artists and local presses. Peter Calderwood and Lena Gustafson of Night Diver Press presented their hand printed and bound artist book series, Heaven and Humans.
Paper and Pressure included evening classes: a comic arts workshop led by Kane Lynch, a lettering workshop led by Sean Vranizan and Kel Troughton, and an artist talk given by veteran printmaker, Doug Minkler.